How drag queens pulled a Seattle writer from a crippling funk | KUOW News and Information

How drag queens pulled a Seattle writer from a crippling funk

May 23, 2016

Seven years ago, Seattle TV writer Melanie McFarland was depressed.

“It was like being under water,” McFarland said. “Or having an alien be inside my skull and pilot the meat suit.”


During that time, little broke through to the woman beneath the meat suit.

But a handful of drag queens did.

RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality TV show starring American darling RuPaul, was balm for her tortured mind. The show pits drag queen contestants against each other in fashion and lip syncing challenges.

“It’s like if ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘Project Runway’ had a baby and it was all drag queens,” McFarland said.

She was drawn to RuPaul’s saying, “You’re born naked and the rest is drag.”

Those words reminded McFarland of a character from “Saturday Night Live” called Fernando.

“He'd say, ‘Darling, it's better to look good than to feel good, and you look marvelous,’” McFarland said.

TV critic Melanie McFarland felt like this - alien in a meat suit - before she started watching RuPaul's Drag Race.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Inspired, she headed to Sephora, a make-up palace of glitter and shadows.

“There was a man who worked in the downtown Sephora, and his makeup was flawless,” McFarland recalled. “I would go in there, and whenever he approached me, I would just have him show me things.

“This is somebody who didn’t have to wear makeup but he did it, and he did it in such a way that was just impeccable. And that made me feel better. And then just encountering all these – not even cosmetic – but these moments of beauty out in the world, that’s how I was starting to feel better.”

Seattle writer Melanie McFarland.
Credit Courtesy of Melanie McFarland

She had felt like there was a black hole where her stomach should be, like she was sucking in the universe. But these moments began a shift toward feeling better.

“I won't say that it's all Drag Race; it’s not like T.V. Paxil,” she said. “But that was one thing where I said, ‘OK, I'm going to look different than I feel,’ and that was a step.”

The drag queens also inspired her to establish better boundaries for herself.

“If you watch enough drag queens, the way they carry themselves, you don't want to step too close to them unless you're invited,” McFarland said.

“It's not to say that they're unapproachable and evil,” she said, “but it's almost like they're channeling some sort of divine presence that we're drawn to but at the same time want to keep a respectable distance.” 

McFarland, a former editor of, is now a freelance writer and editor.